Manteca Unified is taking steps to upgrade 2,600 HVAC units districtwide in a bid to reduce the potential for COVID-19 transmissions.
The district’s $1 million indoor air quality program will start with a study to evaluate the existing units that vary in age and design. The study will determine on a unit-by-unit basis which HVACs may just need new filters, if a unit needs to be retrofitted, or it is impossible to retrofit and needs to be replaced.
HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters that pass muster with federal standards remove 99.7 percent of the particles in the air they filter.
Experts such as Joseph Allen who serves as director of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health note that in an average home it takes between two and three hours for an HVAC system to exchange air. The proper air purification system can kick that up to six times in an hour.
It is critical that the room size, ventilation system, and ceiling height of the space each HVAC is cooling or heating be calculated to determine the right sized air purification system.
Infected people when they breathe, cough, or talk release COVID-19 particles. Large droplets fall but smaller respiratory droplets can remain airborne for 30 plus minutes before they are dispatched via ventilation or captured by an air purification system.
Air purification systems can also reduce the spread of other respiratory illness such as the flu. As an added bonus they can also help reduce allergy issues as well.
The $1 million cost will be covered by $24.3 million the state has allocated to the district to address COVID-19 related expenses. The district at the start of November had already spent $17.1 million of the allocation on things ranging from face masks and partitions to additional equipment needed for distance learning and in-person learning with social distancing protocols as well as training for teachers doing online instruction and endeavors designed to make up for learning loss.
The air quality program will be funded from part of the $7.2 million for COVID-19 related expenses the district hasn’t spent.
Superintendent Clark Burke noted the indoor air quality program will be coordinated with health and safety work being funded by voter approved school bond projects. That means if a bond-related project involves HVAC units targeted for replacement for being past their rated life, not being energy efficient and/or proving too costly to maintain that can’t be retrofitted the cost to replace them will be from COVID-19 funds.
That would free up bond funds to help reduce — even if it is in a small way — some of the $42.4 million identified maintenance needs for aging facilities that passage this month of the $260 million Measure A bond won’t address due to insufficient funds.
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